Category Archives: Catholic Church

Farting in Italy, nudity in Canada and the dead in the trenches of World War I

Blood-red poppies pour out of the Tower of London

Blood-red ceramic poppies pour out of the Tower of London

Today is Remembrance Day.

I forgot until I switched on the BBC News after lunch and saw the Tower of London’s moat filled with the 888,246 ceramic poppies.

There are two unrelated posts in this blog today – about cultural events in Italy and Canada. It ends with poppies in Vancouver.

My farting chum Mr Methane has returned to the UK bearing a gift for me: a fridge magnet of Pope Francis – the only current world religious leader to bear a striking resemblance to 1980s British TV gameshow host Jim Bowen.

I mentioned in this blog last Friday that Mr Methane – who farts around the world professionally – was in Italy but I could not say why. This was because the Italian TV show he was appearing on wanted him to be a surprise for viewers and presumably they thought my increasingly prestigious blog, being widely read in Italy, might give the game away.

But now they have put the Mr Methane clip online on Vimeo, so I can tell you that, last Saturday, Mr Methane surprised the nation that gave us Punch & Judy and The Renaissance.

Mr Methane performed to an unprepared Italian nation on primetime Saturday night Television

Mr Methane performed to an unprepared Italian nation on primetime television last Saturday night…

It was, perhaps surprisingly, Mr Methane’s first appearance on Italian TV.

“Did the audience know you?” I asked him yesterday.

“There was a buzz as I entered from stage right,” he told me. “The sort of buzz that tells you people in the audience know exactly what you are going to do. I think this shows that the power of the internet and YouTube over conventional TV is growing.”

“Did the Italians,” I asked, “react in any different way from other countries?”

“Well, it’s definitely different from Norway, Sweden, Finland, France or Germany,” said Mr Methane, “but its hard to say how exactly. It was certainly a more open, intellectual and civilised approach to the subject than Simon Cowell could manage.”

(Mr Methane was invited to appear on Britain’s Got Talent in 2009. There is a clip on YouTube. It has currently had over 33 million views.)

“I think the nice bit on the Italian TV show,” said Mr Methane, “was the ending. We managed to wheel out a few old jokes that may possibly be almost as old as the fart joke which, you will remember, Michael Grade discovered was the world’s oldest joke

“The set up on Saturday was:

Panel:  Are You Married Mr Methane?

Me: No

Panel: I wonder why not.

“Then we all laughed hard at the razor-sharp wit of the judging panel while at the same time enforcing some social stereotypes and norms – a good thing to do on a traditional Saturday night family TV show and a good way of smuggling farting into the format.

“I was worried that the main host, Seniora Mara, might mess up on the cake routine as there had been no rehearsal but she positioned the candles very well for a first-timer. She seemed to have an empathy with what was going on. This could be because she has a degree in chemistry, but it is more likely because she is just an intellectual and open-minded European. I mean, could you imagine Amanda Holden being able or willing to pull that one off – She’d be worried shitless about her image etc etc etc.

Les Dennis on Cardiff Bay in 2010. But does he fart? (Photograph by Ben Salter/Wikipedia)

Les Dennis on Cardiff Bay in 2010. Does he fart dramatically? (Photograph by Ben Salter)

“In the early 1990s Bobby Davro told me that Les Dennis (Amanda Holden’s former husband) could perform the art of Petomania. I wasn’t sure if he was pulling my leg but about a decade later I was working on a Sky TV show with Les Dennis so I asked him about what Bobby had told me and he confirmed it was true although he said he had not tried it for a few years and didn’t know if he still had the abililty.

“So, to be fair on Amanda, as she lived with a man who possessed the gift of petomania, maybe – just maybe – I’m being a bit harsh about her ability to be able to hold candles up to a man’s arse while he farts them out. But what happens in the privacy of a person’s relationship should stay that way, so I can only speculate using the information available and come to the conclusion that while such a scenario was possible it probably never happened.”

“Did you try to speak Italian on the show last Saturday?” I asked.

“I spoke a little at the end to say Thankyou to the viewers but, for all I know, I could have been saying: I want to fuck a dead hamster.”

“What’s next?” I asked.

“A French TV show about super heroes is in the offing,” Mr Methane told me. “We just need to see if we can work the money and travel – I’m hopeful we can do as I really like the sound of the project and they seem to like the sound of me.”

Pope Francis on my fridge with a picture of my home town

Pope Francis on my fridge with a picture of my home town

“Thanks for the fridge magnet of Pope Francis,” I said. “Have you ever performed for any religious groups?”

“No,” said Mr Methane. “Although I was once thinking of reaching out to that market by releasing an album of faith-based recordings entitled Touching Cloth. In the end, I decided not to as I respect other people’s beliefs and would not want to offend them.”

Meanwhile, yesterday I also received news from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith.

She told me: “I met an exceptional 23 year old man this summer.

“It was in a park on the waterfront in Vancouver. He was apparently from Dublin, but wasn’t. He said his name was Eddie.

“I told him: There’s a song with your name – Eddie Don’t Like Furniture.

“He surprised me by saying: I HATE that song.

You KNOW that song? I asked.

I know it and I hate it, he said, clenching his teeth.

On Pender Island, there was a man who disliked furniture

On Pender Island, there was a man who disliked all furniture

“I met someone on Pender Island, near Vancouver, who reminded me of it. He hated furniture too – partitions, anything resembling furniture at all…. He ripped them all out…He did it to a caravan and he did it to a fiberglass motor cruiser – right down to the bulkheads. He even did it to a Boston Whaler. He tore all the seats out until there was nothing left but the hull and a shredded-looking steering column. Like a maniac, he steered it through the shipping lane across the Georgia Straight from Pender Island to Richmond standing up as if it was a scooter. He never wore belts or shoelaces. He thought they were bad for the circulation.

“When people sink boats deliberately I try not to become overly involved. I loaned somebody my axe once and I never got it back.

The ever interesting Anna Smith

Anna Smith is thinking of a book

“Maybe I should write a book with nothing but isolated paragraphs like that I think I could easily write a short string of striptease stories as I have told them many times over, just never written them all down.

“People do seem to enjoy those.

“The places I worked in… Very strange.

“I once performed a striptease at a library in Don Mills, an affluent suburb of Toronto. And I broke my foot flying off stage into a crowd of uranium miners in Northern Ontario. I was happy that happened on a Saturday, because it meant I only missed two shows out of the week.

“People in Vancouver are taking their clothes off in November for no particular reason and standing around outside the art gallery. The naked people are doing it because they want children to have a future and they told me it was not a protest but a Vigil for Vulnerability.

The Man in The Lego Mask & cape (Photograph by Anna Smith)

The Man in The Lego Mask & cape (Photograph by Anna Smith)

“I took photos.

“The man with the Lego mask and cape is Simon Leplante.

“He said he had made 50 of the Lego and chicken foot masks and given 48 of them away, mainly to women artists. He told me that he had performed a dance recently at a downtown nightclub and left the stage strewn with tiny bits of Lego.

“Outside the art gallery, the naked vigil enlivened the afternoon for a street vendor selling tourist trinkets. He shouted:

You gotta LOVE the art gallery!

People in Vancouver are taking off their clothes (Photograph by Anna Smith)

The Vancouver Vulnerability Vigil (Photograph by Anna Smith)

“The Vulnerability Vigil was originated by a woman from Victoria, British Columbia. The man in the photo with the tattoos is an art school model. They were very friendly and appreciative that I took many photos with their own cameras.

“Then a burly young security guard emerged from the art gallery but he did not call the police nor ask them to clothe themselves. He merely asked if they could move to a spot slightly to the west, as he said they were too close to the gallery restaurant.

“So they did.

“After I paid my phone bill I went to the library. There was an information fair outside the library where activists were promoting a movie about peyote and handing out stickers of opium poppies to remind us of the victims of all the wars.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Canada, Catholic Church, Eccentrics, Italy, Television

Why I am thinking of joining the Catholic Church – to buy racehorses

Flying nun or Satanic Chucky doll?

Flying nun or Satanic Chucky doll?

Today I had been going to blog about the second day of the Guardian’s excellent weekend seminar on Self Publishing.

But, when I came home last night to find a nun in my living room, I changed my mind.

“I thought you might not like her,” my eternally-un-named friend said.

“She’s wonderful,” I said.

“I found her in a charity shop,” my eternally-un-named friend told me. “I thought of her as an early Christmas present for someone religious or as a prop for Martin Soan. She was only £2.99. I think I saw her in a different charity shop in the summer for £6.99.”

“Why would two people have got rid of her?” I asked. “Perhaps she’s evil and comes with a curse.”

“She’s got poppers,” my eternally-un-named friend told me. “None of that Velcro rubbish.”

“And underwear,” I said, lifting up the nun’s skirt.

“She has eyelashes,” observed my eternally-un-named friend.

“And,” I said, fiddling with the nun, “because she’s held round the waist by a metal bar attached to a stand, she can levitate. Always impressive. Look.”

My eternally-un-named friend was not impressed.

“She’s also musical,” she said, moving my hand away from the nun’s back and turning a key. A delicate tune played. “I thought about extending her arms and hanging her from the ceiling as if she was a flying nun. But I couldn’t quite figure out how to suspend her.”

“What shall we call her?” I asked.

“Sister Sara,” suggested my eternally-un-named friend. “Like in the Clint Eastwood film.”

“Sister Suzie?” I suggested. “always sewing socks for soldiers….”

The Flying Nun,” said my eternally-un-named friend. “What was she called? Bernadette?”

Chucky - no relation to the nun

Chucky – no relation to the Flying Nun nor actress Sally Field

“Sally Field,” I said. “But we can’t call her Sally Field. It sounds like an airstrip. How about Sister Chucky? I think there might be some sort of Satanic curse surrounding her, which is why the person who bought her in a charity shop in summer had to get rid of her to another charity shop in December…”

By now, we were both looking on the internet for other nuns.

“I picked her up and vaguely walked around the shop today,” my eternally-un-named friend told me, “and there was a guy there at the till, but he didn’t bat an eyelid. He didn’t smile as if Aha! It’s a nun! And I was thinking £2.99??? She’s 16 inches high! And musical! I’d almost bought her in the previous charity shop in the summer, but I thought £6.99 was too much for something you don’t really want… £2.99 though… And she’s got poppers… If you buy a toy or a doll, it’s got Velcro, not poppers. It’s well-made and it’s…”

“Satanic,” I said.

“She’s got eyelashes!” my eternally-un-named friend persisted. “There were two in the summer.”


“Nuns. One was this one and the other had a black face and was wearing spectacles. Look, here on the internet, you can get Russian nesting nuns.”

I looked. “One inside the other and each one getting smaller and smaller,” I said admiringly. “That’s always useful.”

“Yes. And mini-nun nesting dolls. Look. Two inches high. And a Flying Nun paper doll. Mint, it says, in box.”

“At least you would have something to eat,” I said. “But all these ones online look crap. We have a superior nun here. What’s the most expensive one on that page?”


“Ah, that’s for a Flying Nun,” I said, looking, “and it’s still crap. £187 for a rather ugly nun is a bit steep… All that money for a nun.”

A nun of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration

A nun of the Order of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration

“Reminds me of the Poor Clares,” said my eternally-un-named friend.

“Who were they?” I asked.

“The ones in Belgium. You remember it happened in the 1990s?”

“No,” I said. “I barely remember what happened yesterday.”

“It was in the newspapers.” persisted my eternally-un-named friend. “They sold their nunnery and went off to the South of France with the proceeds. They bought an ambulance or some motor van to transport a disabled elderly nun with them. They must have just thought Sod it! We’re fed up. We’ll sell the nunnery!

“What did they do when they got to the South of France? Did they stop nunning and became ravers?”

“Well, yes, as much as they could, considering some of them weren’t that well. What could anyone do to them? They were nuns! They’d already sold the place.”

“You would think they’d get struck down by thunderbolts,” I said. “What happened to them?”

“I have no idea. It’s a mystery. Like Searching For Sugar Man. It could be a film. Did the Catholic Church hunt them down and throw them on the streets? They didn’t have any possessions, just the money from selling the nunnery. We’ll have to Google it,”

We both turned to our laptops

“They must have had gold statues and things,” I said. “Catholic churches are always dripping with gold.”

“They might have had a few bits of gold and silver,” said my eternally-un-named friend. “Who knows? One presumes they were sensible enough to sell everything. They’d just sold the nunnery! They can’t have said Oh, we’ll post this gold chalice back to the Pope. It belongs to him. But I reckon they didn’t own many possessions because they were called The Poor Clares – the clue’s in the name.”

“Ah yes,” I said. “the Poor Clares.”

“Or the gutsy Clares,” suggested my eternally-un-named friend. “You’ve got to hand it to them.’

“I think they handed it to themselves,” I said.

“Well, that’s what one admires, isn’t it? At what point did one of them think of doing it?”

“Maybe they had a discussion round a rosary,” I suggested.

“Or maybe every now and then they’d had a moan – Oh God, we’ve got to do this-and-that and Cardinal So-and-so’s coming along tomorrow and he’ll insist on having the best of the courgettes or We’re not allowed to grow roses! or God! I’m sick of that man!

I laughed.

“They would have thought things like that!” my eternally-un-named friend insisted. “They’d have had men coming along telling them what to do in the nunnery and, at some point, one of the nuns would have started muttering and one of the others would have said Yeah, I’m fed up too and, eventually, someone would have said Hey! Wouldn’t it be funny if… That’s how these things happen.”

“What?” I asked. “Nuns selling nunneries and running off to the South of France?”

“Yes. Another nun would say Hey! You know, we really could! And the Mother Superior was in on it, obviously.”

“They must have had a vote,” I mused. “A unanimous vote to run off to the South of France with the proceeds of selling the nunnery.”

“A couple of them,” my eternally-un-named friend suggested, “must have been upset and fed up about some situation and said We’ll ask Sister Sue but then thought Mary’s a wee bit religious. She might not be up for it.

“I wonder how you would bring up the subject in general conversation,” I asked. “Presumably they were not a silent order. If they were, they’d have had to mime it, which would be difficult. Maybe they brought it up over wine and bread.”

“You’d be eating your porridge or gruel and vegetables,” my eternally-un-named friend suggested, “and thinking Oh Lord, the cardinals are off on their holiday to Rome yet again or Oh, that bishop’s come back with a suntan and we never get to go anywhere.

“You don’t think you’re grafting too feminist a viewpoint onto this?” I asked. “It’s a nunnery.”

“Or,” she continued, ignoring me, “Oh! Have you seen the cardinal’s plush new red shawl? You’d be making your leavened bread or chatting while you were doing your cooking, like you do, and you’d say Oh, I’m fed up with this! And someone else would say Oh, so am I! Wouldn’t it be nice if... and that’s how those things start.”

“Is this a general rule when people sell nunneries behind the Pope’s back?” I asked.

“That’s how anyone does things. By chatting to someone and saying What if…?

“More difficult if you’re a nun,” I suggested, “to say Let’s sell up the nunnery and go off to the South of France.

“Well, maybe some American came by and said This is a great place. How much would you take? and they said Don’t be ridiculous! but then they thought Well, now, come to think of it… We are all just here in Belgium waiting to die.”

“Perhaps they were bored with living in Belgium,” I said. “The nuns flew south for the winter and stayed there.”

“We should look up more details,” my eternally-un-named friend told me.

“No,” I told her. “I don’t think my blog should be trammelled by facts. Baseless supposition and unsourced fantasies are far more interesting.”

But, in the end, we did Google it.

My eternally-un-named friend wound up the nun and, to the sound of her delicate music, she read out to me from her laptop this piece from the Los Angeles Times, dated March 30, 1990:

The Bruges Diocese was rocked this month by two bizarre episodes. The conversion of a convent into a luxury hotel by a defrocked nun. And the sale of another convent by eight nuns who fled in a limousine to the South of France.

“Eight members of the Order of the Poor Clares, aged 62 to 93, sold their convent in Bruges – without the Pope’s permission – for $1.4 million. They promptly bought a castle in the French Pyrenees, a farm, eleven racehorses and six luxury cars.

“Authorities this week charged a formal financial advisor to the nuns, Ronny Crab, with swindling the sisters through abuse of trust to gain control of their financial affairs.”

“Ronny Crab?” I asked, incredulous.

“That’s what it says here.”

“He doesn’t sound like he conned them,” I said. “They fled to the South of France in a limousine and bought eleven racehorses!”

Meanwhile,” my eternally-un-named friend continued, “about 20 miles from Bruges, a former nun is converting part of the Arme Klaren convent in Nieuwpoort into a hotel, complete with pink bathrooms.

“Maria Logghe, 49, was dismissed by the bishop two years ago for a lifestyle ‘not in accordance with the church’, including fancy clothes and a penchant for smoking cigars and driving fast cars.”

“Mmmmmm…..” I said.

“It sounds like St Trinian’s,” said my eternally-un-named friend.

“I am thinking of joining the Catholic Church,” I told her.

1 Comment

Filed under Catholic Church, Humor, Humour